Governance Structure

The Amherst Food Co-op will be governed by a Board of Directors who will delegate management responsibility to a General Manager and the General Manager's staff. Something that sets our start-up co-op apart from others is our hybrid multi-stakeholder model, meaning that both workers and consumers will be owners of the Co-op and will therefore be involved in its governance. Five members of the The Board will be members of the community and four will be workers in the Co-op. This unique model gives workers a strong representation on their Board, which, in turn, will lead to a greater sense of empowerment and ownership.

Some of the Board's responsibilities will be: establishing and approving the co-op's budget, implementing new projects and goals, acting as the legal representation for the co-op, and making sure the co-op remains true to its mission and vision. Our Bylaws, which were written by the Amherst Food Co-op Steering Committee and approved by our member-owners at our first annual meeting, state that board members will be elected by and from the workers and consumers respectively, with a three year term.

As the co-op continues to take shape, we will expand on the development of our governance structure and update this page with more current information. 

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commented 2015-08-25 12:02:12 -0400
Those are some great concerns, thanks for bringing them up!

As far as decisions about what products to stock, these will likely be both consumer and worker-driven. Consumers will let the co-op know what products they’d like to see on the shelves by way of “voting with their dollars”- the better a product sells, the more likely it is to stay on the shelves. We also envision having an active flow of product suggestions and a means of giving feedback to the buyers. Workers who are in charge of purchasing will make decisions about the products they stock the shelves with by taking this feedback into account.

As far as interpreting the mission and vision of the co-op, the equal representation of workers and consumers on the board of the directors means that reflecting these differing interests is intrinsic in the board’s function. While consumers will likely provide more of the capital (although worker buy-in is higher than consumer buy-in, and the co-op is likely to employ 50-100 workers depending on the size of the co-op), equal representation is important to maintaining the democratic nature of the co-op.

Worker-owned co-ops tend to result in workers who are more invested (not just financially, but emotionally) in and empowered by the work that they do. Turnover in such workplaces tends to be lower, which is better for the longevity of the business as well as the consistency of the product. Happier, more fulfilled workers lead to happier consumers.

Does this answer your question? Thanks for starting this dialogue! It would be great to hear other perspectives on the matter.
commented 2015-05-19 15:45:33 -0400
Sounds like a great place to work! How can consumer-owners be sure it’ll be a great place to shop?

For example, how will decisions about what to stock be made? At Rainbow Groceries, the worker-owners make those decisions. But here, there will have to be some process to make both worker- and consumer-owners happy.

Further down the line, board of directors will have to interpret the mission and vision of the co-op. How can it be constructed to equitably reflect the collective investments of you, the founders, the then-current workers, and the consumers who (presumably) provide much of the capital to get the co-op off the ground?
Amherst Food Co-op
A start-up worker- and consumer-owned food co-op in Amherst, MA